Christmas Reflections 2019

I’ve been dreading writing this post because I’m not quite sure what to say about Christmas this year. I like to be authentic and honest in this space, refusing to gloss over or hide the truly hard parts of life. But at the same time, I know that I’m fairly pessimistic a lot of the time, and people don’t want to read about depressing things. Especially in what should be a light hearted, warm fuzzy memories Christmas post.

You learn pretty early to set your holiday expectations LOW when you have kids. Babies and toddlers are on their own schedules with their own agendas and they don’t handle chaos and change very well. You expect Christmastime to be this magical experience and it’s usually anything but. You learn to adapt to what your kids need, deal with the disappointment of relatives when you have to say no to things, and try to keep everyone as happy as possible when all you really want to do is go hide in a dark room and cry. It’s so much about putting on your brave face, ignoring what’s really going on in your heart, and just trying to get through it, focusing on the good parts of the season.

I’ve gotten so used to this over the last eleven years, being blessed with a child who is especially difficult when literally anything changes in his homebody lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how exciting the holiday or event, it doesn’t matter what relative he adores is in town, it doesn’t matter what he’s promised as a reward or what he’s threatened as a punishment, he WILL NOT COOPERATE. He will make sure everybody knows in the most dramatic, violent, cruel, and angry way as possible how upset he is about these new expectations on him. Normally if we talk things through over and over days in advance, he’s a little bit better about going with the flow when the time comes. But this year? He wasn’t having it. He made it his life goal this past week to make every morning before we left the house as terrible as he possibly could. Which really puts a damper on our own ability to carry on and have a great day ourselves.

I do want to make it clear that once we left the house, at every party and event we went to, everything was fine. He didn’t act out anywhere else, which isn’t always the case, so…progress? I’m thankful for the time we got to spend with family and how much effort our parents went to to provide some really great Christmas get togethers and meals. Nothing about my negative Christmas experience has anything to do with anyone other than the members of my immediate family. I think it was even harder this year because normally I can at least depend on Greg to be on my side because he’s the only other person in the world who understands how difficult it is dealing with this particular child. But we seemed to keep getting our signals crossed this year, resulting in a whole lot of silent treatment – our best fighting skill. So in the end, it felt like a very lonely couple of days.

Anyway! Now that that’s out of my system, back to my recap of the week. Sunday was the day I was most worried about because it involved three different events. After a repeat of Saturday’s morning, we decided to leave Caden at my parent’s house with Annie for the day, eliminating his presence at two events. It ended up working out well, giving him time to play with Hudson and giving my mom a little time to get a few things done, while the rest of us got a much needed break from his verbal abuse. We joined Greg’s family at church to watch his dad in the cantada. Then we drove up to Oshkosh for the big extended family party. Shepard kept refusing to do anything with the other kid cousins, but he was making himself pretty comfortable with older male cousins and uncles that he barely knows, joining in their conversations like a tiny adult. I thought it was hilarious.

We stopped at Starbucks after the party to reward Shepard for behaving so well and to give me a much needed pick me up.

We spent the rest of the day celebrating my dad’s birthday. It’s unfortunate that his birthday is right by Christmas when he’s working like 18 hour days at FedEx. But he had the whole day off, Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were also available, so we were able to celebrate all together.

It was a really nice low key and relaxed evening.

I really liked watching the cousins play together. Hudson was obsessed with going in Annie’s kennel and kept insisting the boys go in with him. He’s so cute! I’m glad my boys are willing to play with him at his level and aren’t “too cool” for toddlers yet!

On Monday morning we did our own family Christmas at home. I like to do it early every year before the novelty of big gift exchanges wears off. Though they don’t seem as overwhelmed by it as they did when they were younger. But it’s still nice to carve out half a day just for us in the midst of so much extended family time.

Shepard picked this mug out for me when we did our Target shopping a few weeks ago. I laughed so hard when I opened it! Greg said he went right to that one and insisted on it. Such a funny kid.

We spent the night of the 23rd exchanging gifts and having a nice dinner with Greg’s family. Normally we do both families on the 24th, but we had to rearrange a bit this year with Greg’s sister and brother-in-law needing to fly out on the 24th. I really liked separating the events, though. It felt so much more relaxed during the opening (because we didn’t have another one to rush off to) and during our annual brunch on the 24th (because we weren’t rushing to get to presents). I didn’t take any photos that night, unfortunately.

We went over as early as we could get moving on the 24th to have brunch with the Noe side. It was really nice!

We used a selfie stick to get a picture with everyone in it.

We left at the same time all the siblings went to the airport to spend as much remaining time with Hudson (and the rest) as possible on their last day in town as well.

It was a little bit cooler, but still nice enough to play outside for part of the afternoon. I heard that we had record breaking warm temperatures this week, which is crazy. Normally I’m all about wanting a white Christmas, but this year it’s been really great NOT having to constantly worry about falling, or trying to fit shoveling into already very busy schedules.

Annie got to have a sleepover on the 23rd, spending lots of time with Grandma and her dog aunts. She loves going over there with a huge fenced in yard to run around in. Plus three other pet dishes to steal food from!

I tried really hard to stay on track with my eating plans in the days and parties before just so I could indulge in this snack feast with no guilt on Christmas Eve. This probably wasn’t even half of the food that my mom kept adding to throughout the day! I totally went overboard, but it was so worth it. YUM.

My dad got home from work at 4 – probably the earliest ever! (Though he also had to get up at 2!) We had to have a round of Christmas carols and toddler tunes before we could open gifts.

After the big present opening, everyone just kind of zoned out. I was really zoned out half the day, I was so wiped out! It was really nice to just read and doze for a couple hours in the afternoon while Hudson was napping. Christmas is exhausting!

We both looked pretty out of it by the end of the night! Hudson tried on some new jammies and we said goodbye.

And the night ended with a Santa visit. Despite how the beginning of this month started with a lot of questioning, both of my kids still firmly believe in his existence. I’m happy to have had another year of the magic, but I can also see how things could feel a lot easier once they know the truth. One of the hardest things this year was that Shepard’s list for Santa only included things that were ridiculously expensive and inappropriate for an 8 year old. Like an iphone, a gaming computer, some sort of massive four wheeler. We’ve NEVER had Santa bring the bigger gifts, so I don’t know why he got it into his head that this year would be his year. His reasoning was that Santa doesn’t need money because he makes everything, so he’ll bring kids what they ask for. It was kind of hard to see how sad he was to not get any of those things, even though it really was unreasonable. He told someone a few days later that his favorite present was a box of Nerds because it was the only thing on his list that he actually got. (Though it didn’t come from Santa!) Sigh.

Everyone was up bright and early Christmas morning. Annie took care of Santa’s cookie and milk leftovers. We opened our gifts and stockings and then Greg went back to bed, the boys went to game, and I spent basically the entire day reading and napping. When Greg woke up again he went to spend a few hours with his family, while the rest of us stayed home to chill. It was so luxurious to have a day where I truly felt I could ignore all responsibility and just relax. I did put together an easy but nice dinner, but the rest of the day was just doing what I love most – reading an addictive book.

Thursday, the 26th, is what I like to call my annual wrapping paper restock day. I left the house as early as I could to get to Target to stock up. I also did a big grocery run, walked through all the clearance at TJMaxx, and zipped down to Trader Joe’s to get a few fun treats for New Year’s Eve. I was planning to spend most of the day out and about, but Greg and the boys went to Beaver Dam again and the draw of having a few hours home alone was just too strong. Though they got home soon after me, so I just spent the whole afternoon in bed reading and napping. This week has done a number on me – I’m so tired! Later that day Shepard had an eye appointment and he picked out new glasses – the same pair, but with slightly different coloring. I made another nice dinner (I’m always so excited about making dinner after a week of snacks and treats!) and we picked up Culver’s ice cream for dessert.

And Friday. MEH. I was in a pretty crappy mood Friday. Greg and Shepard had bad colds at the start of all the Christmas festivities, but Caden woke up with a cold AND a hacking cough on Christmas Day. So even though I was so desperate to have more time at my own house, now that I feel like we’re trapped here because of his sickness, it’s depressing me. I really want to go see Little Women with Greg, but…Caden. I also spent half the day in the kitchen, which is always a blessing and a curse. I love making good food, but I resent the fact that it’s always all on me to do it. And when it literally takes up half my day, I get frustrated. I’m always stressed out by the piles of new gifts that I know nobody but me is ever going to put away or organize. I have so many things I could and should be doing, but I have a terrible time concentrating when there is so much going on around me, so I feel like I can’t really do anything. I can’t even do the fun things, like watch my own tv shows or listen to my podcasts or music. And I’m SO angry at my stupid foot and how it’s stopping me from exercising. So…it wasn’t a very good day. Not because of anyone else, just me reacting to a lack of time alone, lack of quiet, lack of sleep, lack of physical outlet for my building stress.

But it’s a new day. I’m hoping to power through and get a few things done this weekend, even if it means wearing ear plugs or dragging all of my stuff upstairs to my bedroom. I think it might also be a good idea to just start some dolls. It’s been almost a month since I’ve done any sewing and I NEED that creative outlet in my life. There are still five more days before everyone goes back to work and school and I need to make the most of them.

So that was our Christmas! The usual rollercoaster of emotions. I had a really nice time seeing all of our out of town siblings and nephew and enjoying drama free get togethers with everyone. I really wish things on the home front had gone a lot more smoothly, but this is our life, mess and all.

Saturday Reflections 12.21.2019

Well, here we are at the end of another week and the start of Christmas week. It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I won’t be home at all tomorrow or most of the following couple of days and I didn’t want this week’s memories to disappear from the record, so I need to get this post written!

It was kind of a rough week, physically and mentally. My plantar fasciitis has come back with a vengeance. Even before I broke my ankle, every time I tried to get serious about walking a lot more or doing any sort of exercise, the plantar fasciitis would come back and it’s so incredibly painful I can barely even stand up, let alone try to do any sort of exercise. It’s so discouraging to feel like I can just never win. I get so excited about improving my physical health – especially now with the treadmill – but the more I walk the more extreme pain I’m in. It SUCKS. The only way to make it go away is to let it rest. I’ve still taken Annie for multiple short walks this week, but I think I’ve only been on the treadmill once. It’s really frustrating. And it hurts. A lot.

I also made the decision this week to cancel my Hope*Writers membership. I was so excited about it just a short month and a half ago, but life has been a hard reality check since coming home from the conference. There were a variety of reasons I finally made the decision to give this up, but the main one was just a lack of time and mental capacity for it. Trying to change the way I eat and cook and shop has been so all consuming and I still have so far to go. I also have basically zero inventory for Heartstring Annie and need to get really serious about stocking my shop back up in the next few months after not giving it much attention this fall. Hope*Writers was just one more thing that made me feel like I was failing at life. At the bare minimum as a member I should have attended the live weekly classes on Tuesdays. In seven weeks, I managed to prioritize it 1.5 times. If I can’t even do that, I’m certainly not making the effort to do any of the other aspects of membership. I’m really disappointed in myself for this decision, but I think it was the right one for this season of my life.

Anyway. I spent all day Monday running all of my necessary errands. And it took me about a full week in total, but I eventually went through my pantry and baking shelves and basement areas, switching all my new healthy food supplies into glass jars. They’re more appealing this way, they take up less space, and I’m much more likely to actually use them. I also made the final steps to throw away almost all the remaining junk food in the house.

I also spent a ton of time this week wrapping presents. For some reason I thought I could be done with it all in a day. Nope! I used to love wrapping presents, but it’s definitely lost its appeal to me.

On Wednesday I decided I deserved a little bit of fun, so I went to my favorite west side stores to browse around and pick up some final stocking stuffers. In the evening I made this gluten free banana pumpkin bread I wrote about yesterday. It was so good.

On Thursday I was prepared to finally buckle down and finish wrapping Santa gifts – only to have Shepard home from school because he had a bad headache and lost a lot of sleep. Fortunately after a few more hours of sleep he was feeling fine, so I was still able to take him to school and get what I needed to done. And then in the evening we met up with Greg’s parents and friend for Mod Pizza and Star Wars!

On Friday Caden participated in his middle school spelling bee! He was one of 24 kids in grades 3-8 to compete. He did well! He was so nervous, but we’re really proud of him for going up there and doing it. He had quite the support section with Greg and I, three of the grandparents, and an aunt and uncle!

After school we went to the in-law’s and out to dinner. It was a nice kick off to our Christmas festivities!

And then this morning was pretty awful. Always such an emotional roller coaster around here. It’s so hard to know how to properly parent a child who has serious behavioral issues with being required to leave the house for any reason, no matter how special or fun it’s going to be. On one hand you assume that by age 11 he should be expected to go along with what we tell him to, no matter what. On the other hand, we’ve had 11 years of experience to tell us that’s just not going to go well and it’s only going to ruin the day for everyone. We need to prioritize HIS needs when we can, even if it upsets other people. It’s just not a battle we needed to have before the real days of Christmas celebrations even begin. Greg and I had very different ideas of what our plans were for today and because I was the one up six hours earlier than him, I’m the one the kids wanted to believe. In the end, he went off to spend the day with his family, and the boys and I stayed home. Them gaming, me getting things done. It was so beautiful outside, though, that we did take a break and run around the dog park for awhile.

We did decide to join most of the siblings for their pre-Star Wars dinner at Tipsy Cow tonight. Caden’s participation in the movie going was back and forth all day, but he ended up going with everyone as planned. Shepard and I came back home. Once is enough for me!

I finished the night making a French onion dip for my Dad’s birthday celebration tomorrow night. Now I’m ready to crash!

Our next few days are packed! We have early church tomorrow to watch my father-in-law sing in a cantada. Then we’re off to Oshkosh for Greg’s huge family party. And then back to my parents’ house for my dad’s birthday party. On Monday we’re going to open presents just the four of us and hopefully have a somewhat laid back morning of enjoying our new gifts. Then we’re doing a gift exchange and having dinner with Greg’s family. Christmas Eve will be back there again for brunch and then the rest of the day with my side. And Christmas Day we always leave open because chances are high most of us are pretty over traveling around by then and just want to enjoy some time at home. We’ll see, though. It should be a lot of fun if everyone stays in good spirits, myself included. I probably won’t have any time to write for awhile, so…. Merry Christmas!!

October 2019 Reflections, a Little Early

October has shaped up to be one of the busiest and hardest months I’ve ever had. It’s been filled with a lot of great pockets of time connecting with friends and family. But it’s been alternated with so much stress and anxiety and emotional overwhelm. I don’t think I’ve ever let go of so many things go at once that are important to me in order to just survive my day to day life. I stopped filling out my bullet journal and organizing my tasks and giving myself a solid plan of what to work on every day. I stopped writing even the weekly blog posts that tend to ground and guide my weeks, and haven’t even considered writing anything beyond the occasional journal entry. I stopped listening to most podcasts in favor of soaking up the very rare silence or just listening to music instead. I slowed down so much on doll making, going up to a week at a time without even picking it up. And I’ve stopped reading. Not entirely. But this has been the slowest book month I’ve ever had. Lack of actual time is a big reason why, but I’ve definitely picked mindless phone scrolling over reading way too often.

There have been plenty of good things that have been filling my time that I definitely don’t regret. A group of my friends threw me a little birthday lunch, which was really awesome. It meant a lot to me that they cared about celebrating with me in the midst of their own crazy busy lives. I’ve also had two morning coffees at my house this month – with another one happening on Friday. I had a lunch date with another friend. And I have a lunch date with a friend this week as well. It’s been great reconnecting with everyone after what felt like an incredibly long dry spell. Female friendships are so important and we should all fight to keep them alive and thriving.

I’ve been dipping into some Cricut projects – really the main reason I wasn’t sewing for awhile there. These are the first three projects I did, using free files I found online. I was most impressed with how the mug turned out and might just focus on making more of those for gifts on upcoming holidays. I designed one myself to make for my friend Julie’s birthday and it turned out really nice. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed using my graphic design skills. But it also feels like starting completely from scratch – forget all those college classes and degree from a million years ago! So it’s very time consuming, requires a ton of research and searching for free things to work with before I can entirely design my own, and – I’m not that great at some of it. The main reason I wanted a Cricut was to make stencils and wooden signs. I’ve done a couple of stencils on canvas so far and they haven’t turned out at all. I’m hoping it’s just because of the canvas. I bought some wooden planks a few weeks ago to start practicing for real, but we haven’t found a time yet for Greg to help me use the rotary saw. That thing scares me.

Last weekend we got to spend a lot of time with Hudson, Timmy, and Brittany. The boys and I joined my mom in babysitting him on Saturday night and on Sunday we celebrated Brittany’s birthday. He was so much fun to hang out with! He’s talking so much and giggling and laughing about everything. His favorite thing was wrestling with the boys. He liked joining in on all their random snacking too.

It’s hard to go so many months in between seeing him, but it’s fun to see how much he’s changed in those time periods. He’s such a little cutie.

This last Thursday night we finally had some free time, so we carved pumpkins. Except that I was SO tired – it’s been a pretty sucky week, but more on that in a minute. Shepard had just cut his thumb playing gaga ball and didn’t want to get it full of pumpkin juice. And Caden was just not wanting to participate because he never wants to participate in ANYTHING. So Greg did all the scooping, we drew the faces, he did the carving. And he did it all in record time!

I worked on cleaning and making our pumpkin seeds. We always do one batch of salt, one dill and salt, and one chex mix flavors.

On Friday night we walked to the annual town bonfire. I always think it’s just a really nice memorable thing to participate in each year. It wasn’t quite as fun as last year because there was no DJ and Caden had zero interest in playing with his friends. I don’t know what’s been going on with him lately, but he’s having a rough time. Or he’s making choices that are making him feel like he’s having a rough time because he refuses to even try to be friendly with people anymore. But Shepard had a blast.

In a single day I actually made six little boy dolls from start to finish. It’s the first time I’ve made boys in almost two years. It’s the first time I’ve made dolls this small in probably at least six months. Dresses and long hair are what take the longest, so boys are very speedy! They all sold instantly. I started a second batch right away. I’ve needed a break from fall and Halloween dolls. Seasonal dolls kind of drag me down. It’s hard to feel super inspired when I feel like I have to make them. I don’t like being told what to do! So it was fun to throw in something different.

Last night we had our annual Halloween party with the grandparents and the city trick or treating. I wasn’t feeling super inspired this year, so I just made my annual pizza snake and a few snack mixes. Cindy brought caramel, apples, veggies and dip and sparking caramel apple cider. My mom brought a ham and cheese mummy and two desserts. It was a nice evening! Caden was being especially moody, but he perked up a bit as we were trick or treating. He was dressed as a dabbing taco. Shepard was his favorite youtuber, Unspeakable. Only one person recognized him and most people probably wondered why he wasn’t wearing a costume.

Annie was a rainbow and received A LOT of attention. The boys lasted longer than years past, but Shepard was still antsy to get back home and help hand out with Greg. Caden went back out for a few more houses.

Later in the evening there was a flashlight pumpkin hunt set up for older kids. I had signed Caden up thinking it would be something really fun to do, and extra special since only he was old enough. But he DID NOT want to go. But we were already planning to take Willow with us and I was sure he’d cheer up once he got there, so we went. It ended up being inside because it was raining by then, but we had to stand around for 40 minutes waiting for it to begin and he was moping and scowling and begging me to go home the entire time. Once the whistle blew he seemed to kind of enjoy himself, but it definitely wasn’t the fun memory I was expecting to make.

I just don’t know what to do with that kid. He’s always been like this – never wanting to do anything outside of the house. But it seems to be getting even worse. It’s infuriating trying to find this balance of encouraging things that might surprise him, while also realizing he is VERY much like me emotionally and not wanting to push him into more than he can handle. It’s hard to make him do things when I’m also in this season of life where new things are being thrown at me and added to the calendar every single day and I feel like I’m absolutely drowning, no matter how much fun those events might be. Despite the fact that he was super excited about the idea months ago, we didn’t force him into joining basketball this winter – a 3-4 night weekly commitment that he was flat out refusing to do. The deadline was this week and I just let it slide, even though Greg wanted to make him do it. I felt like that was just going to guarantee three months of all of us being miserable. I DID, however, make him sign up for chess club again. He loved it in spring, but wanted nothing to do with it this fall. They included a few younger grades this year, so Shepard actually joined too, which is probably the only reason he was convinced to go (he wasn’t “missing out” on game time if Shepard was with him at school). I’m trying so hard to help him with a balance, but he doesn’t make it easy. Ever.

So I had my annual doctor’s exam a few weeks ago. Which is more intensive than it used to be since I started having blood pressure and liver problems last year. All my female parts are in good working order and my blood pressure is under control with my meds. But my liver – it’s not good. I had to go back a second time since I hadn’t fasted the first time to get my labs done. I got the results the next day and my cholesterol is high and my liver values have doubled since February. NOT good. I won’t try to interpret the numbers on my own just yet, but I’ve been referred to a GI doctor and will see her this Wednesday. I obviously don’t know what she’ll say and what next steps might be, but this was the wake up call I guess I really needed to start genuinely changing my life around. And I’ve been going through all the shame and depression and mourning that comes with a self-induced disease that I have to somehow buck up and change entirely on my own if I want to stay alive. It sucks.

Changing my diet is basically the hardest thing in the entire world I can imagine doing. Last year when I had an ultrasound and was diagnosed with mild fatty liver, I was upset, but also motivated to start losing weight. I joined Noom, I started tracking food, and then I did really well for about four months when life took over and I gave up. This year, I don’t want to focus on losing weight. Because that feels temporary. Something to strive for, achieve, and then fall back into old habits. This time around, I NEED to change. I need to change basically everything. And I’m so, so overwhelmed by it. And honestly….just really sad. Refined carbs are the biggest contributor to fatty liver. And…I live on refined carbs. Hence my self induced disease and dealing with the shame that this is all my fault. I did this to myself. And I’m maybe doing it to my kids by allowing them to eat the same way I’ve eaten my whole life. So now not only do I have the pressure of changing my own diet, I’m also responsible for the three other people in my family and trying to change their diets too – which is SURELY going to be met with so many riots and anger and additional stress. I really don’t know if I can handle it.

I’m still waiting to see what the GI doctor specifically tells me I need to do, but I’ve started this week by eliminating almost all my usual carbs, trying out some keto recipes, adding green tea to my day, finding ways to add bone broth to many meals, and avoiding as many bad fats and sugar as possible. I’ve found some good ideas and worked on looking for substitutions to my favorite things to try and not make it feel like I’m suddenly doomed to a life of deprivation. But I’m also really struggling with how I’m going to live with this long term. I don’t like soup, unless it’s loaded with cheese and chips or crackers. I don’t like salad unless it’s covered in ranch and croutons. I have no idea what to eat for breakfast that will fill me up and not have carbs in it. I’ve been having yogurt with granola and bananas every day this week and while it is filling, it’s not really what I crave. It’s too sweet, mainly – I never like to eat sweet things in the morning because I get headaches from it. I honestly think I’d be okay giving up most desserts and sugary things, but I don’t know how to give up the salty things I basically live for. English muffins, chips, sandwiches, peanut butter toast, tacos, rice bowls. This whole week I’ve been cycling through feeling hopeful about some new ideas and absolute depression at how many things I have to let go of forever. I can’t encourage bad behavior by thinking I can eat most things in moderation. I know I can’t. I have to say give them up or this is never going to work.

Anyway, this whole process is just beginning and it’s been hard. But I honestly can already tell the difference in how I feel. Yesterday I was going up and down stairs over and over again and realized hey – my legs don’t hurt as much as they usually do. I’ve had some extra energy and have been taking Annie on two walks every day. And I haven’t given carbs up completely – I did still have grilled cheese and some amazing tomato soup twice this week, and I had a few small pieces of the pizza snake last night. But just not having anything refined for breakfast or lunch is already starting to help. And I want to hold on to those positive changes I can already see after such a short period of time and start craving more of that instead of only thinking about how much I’m losing. I have a long road ahead of me.

Well, usually when I write these monthly recap posts, I just address how I’ve come along on my goals for the month. And I’ll just sum it up quickly by saying I’ve been an utter failure this month! I couldn’t handle it. I did read SOME of my seasonal book stack. I have been taking a lot of walks, but haven’t done any yoga videos or enforced the idea of doing it first thing in the morning because so many mornings have held appointments or important errands. My daily writing practice has only come in the occasional early morning journal entry. And I did go to the theater – Greg and I saw Downton Abbey for my birthday date. I was still hoping to go on my own at some point, but there hasn’t been anything worth seeing.

I think that’s it! I’m finishing October off with a Culver’s fundraiser with Shepard tomorrow night, lunch with my friend Laura on Tuesday, the doctor on Wednesday, and a coffee morning on Friday. My trip to North Carolina is in just a week and a half, so I’m also trying to prepare for that. There’s been a whole lot of anxiety and doubt about that trip as well. It’s hard to feel excited about a writing conference when I haven’t been making writing a priority in a long time. But I have to trust that how I felt when I signed up was true and this WILL be a good thing. But now I also have the added stress of trying to find restaurant options ahead of time that will support these new dietary needs without getting there and having a ton of anxiety every time I need to eat. There’s just so much going on. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Maybe in January??

Do you have to work??

Last night I was on a desperate mission to finish a batch of Halloween dolls. With Cranberry Fest coming up on Friday I’ve been feeling the urgency to get as many sales as possible this week, earning a bit more fun money for my disposal while I wander around on this annual unique shopping experience.

Earlier in the day yesterday I was using a pair of scissors that was screwed way too tight and left me barely able to use my thumb by afternoon. It sounds so pathetic that maybe fifteen minutes of using a tight scissors somehow destroyed my thumb. How old am I?! I feel like I’m constantly falling apart. Anyway, Greg was trying to convince me to rest last night and that work could wait. I vehemently disagreed with him and powered on. How can I rest when there is ALWAYS so much that needs to be done?

I was finishing up my batch of dolls, despite the pain, while watching The Great British Baking Show. That’s one of the only shows I watch while I work on evenings or weekends because it’s basically the only one that’s kid appropriate. And Shepard loves it. So he came in after playing outside for an hour or two to join me in the final ten minutes. I was so exhausted and hurting and still anxious to fold all the laundry before I finally dropped to sleep. As the show came to a close Shepard begged me to watch the next one. I said no, I can only watch while I work. And he responded in the most confused and sad voice, “Do you have to work?? Can’t you just watch?” I immediately said that no, I only watch tv while I work because I have to be productive. I closed my laptop and went upstairs to work on the laundry.

I was on such a mission to just get one more thing done last night that it didn’t really hit me until the middle of the night when I was up with Shepard while he had a migraine how much of a terrible example I was setting for him. On one hand yes, having a good work ethic is important. And I think it’s important for my kids to see that I have been able to successfully run my own business, while also being home with them for their entire childhood. But I also might be setting the example that work is more important than anything else. That fun, even at 7pm after already putting in 13 hours of nonstop work, isn’t allowed. How much would it have hurt me to put off the laundry to today while I snuggled with him on the new comfy chair to watch the next episode?

I would have shown him in a tangible way that spending time with him is more important. Especially considering how little time my kids actually WANT to spend with me in the first place. I could have created a sweet memory for us both instead of pushing him away and insisting that ticking things off my to do list is the only thing that really matters. I made the wrong choice last night and I regret it. No, I don’t always need to work. I just need to remember that.

Vignette of a Hard Day

Parenting is hard. Parenting an extremely emotional and behaviorally challenged child is sometimes debilitating.

These hard days aren’t new. They’re not a surprise. I’ve been having days like this multiple times a week for almost ten years now. And yet they still have the power to knock me down and question my ability to be a mom, every single time.

Let’s start with this morning. We were at the vet, for the cats’ annual checkup. Both cats are pretty subdued and cooperative, but Jack was vibrating with a low growl the entire time. Caden assumed the growl meant he was in pain and was getting really worried about him. He reached over to pet him about the same time they were going to give him his vaccinations and the nurse gently said, “Oh no, don’t touch his face right now, we don’t want him to bite you.” Caden immediately burst into tears. He went to the corner of the room, curled into a ball, and cried the remaining 15 minutes we were in the room.

I understand why the nurse asked him not to touch Jack, and she honestly was not in any way harsh about what she said. But it almost killed me to have him reprimanded for doing something kind and loving, when that’s a side I see so little of. He was heartbroken, thinking Jack was being hurt, and upset that he got scolded for genuinely trying to give him love. I tried to comfort him and help him understand, but he’s not the kind of kid who wants comfort.

Jump to this afternoon. The third day in a row with no neighborhood friends available to play. This summer has gone pretty great when friends are around. No friends, though, means they turn on each other. Caden does everything in his power to push Shepard’s buttons. In his personal space, making disgusting noises with his mouth, sitting on top of his head, touching his back and arms. It is completely predictable how he will behave the minute he gets bored. In turn, Shepard eventually responds with violence, screaming, or crying. And it goes on, and on, and on.

My children are the best of friends. They also have NO IDEA how to spend time apart from each other. They truly believe they have to spend every waking minute within two feet of each other, even if they’re fighting. After a break in fighting they come and ask me what to do because they’re bored. I list a bunch of jobs. They tell me no. I list ideas of things to play with. They tell me no. They go back to fighting with each other and then come back to beg for screen time, which they’ve already had too much of, because it’s the only time I can ever get any of my work done. They thrive on taking advantage of me and wearing me down to the point of exasperation. They take all of my “I don’t know’s” as yeses and go ahead with whatever they wanted to do. I lose battle after battle because I don’t have any energy left to fight.

When it seems they’re incapable of doing anything except wrestling and getting on each other’s nerves, I tell them to go take breaks in their rooms for awhile. After telling me no over and over and over again, they eventually go, but I can hear that they’re still in the same room. I decided to let it go today because I wanted to take a quick nap. I’ve had a terrible time sleeping these last two weeks and my regular school year afternoon naps are few and far between in summertime. I thought I could have twenty minutes of rest until they charged back down. I swear the second I closed my eyes they were in the same room as me again. Wrestling on the dog bed across the room. Whispering, loudly, fully intending to keep me awake, but under the guise of “trying to be quiet.” I gave up on sleep, again. I yelled at them to find something to do. Caden responded by getting in my face and trying to push MY buttons, bored with pushing Shepard’s.

And then an entire afternoon of him being so dang proud of himself for getting under my skin. Me knowing full well he was pushing and still responding anyway. I tried to keep my cool. I always try. I’m onto him, always. But I can’t always be the bigger man. He wouldn’t go to his room for time outs. He kept babytalk begging me to play games, even though he knew I already took everything away. He kept pushing the doorbell over and over again because he knew I was trying to watch a show while I worked. When I yelled at him and couldn’t think of the word for doorbell he laughed and made fun of me. I chased him to the stairs. He went halfway up and refused to move. I gave up and went back to my computer, deciding ignoring him was the better option. While he was messing around he somehow tripped and fell down half the staircase, hurting his knee. I walked over to make sure nothing looked broken and then I walked away. I am a terrible mom because all I can think about is how if he would JUST LISTEN we would never be in these situations.

The afternoon continued with more of the same. I kept up my new ignoring tactic and he got even more in my face. I went upstairs to empty garbages and he got out a toy gun he got at the fair last week. He held it to my head and pulled the trigger. I ripped it out of his hands and threw it in the garbage bag I was holding. That is apparently what “broke him.” He ran to his room, slammed the door a few times, and cried.

I don’t want to have to get to the point of breaking him. Yet somehow, after literally hours of this behavior, I have to be a tiny bit relieved that it’s finally over. I broke him so he would stop breaking me. Because he did and he does. Today I was defeated. But believe me, I felt no triumph over my eventual win. These power struggles are so old. And so soul wrenching.

These are my days. Parenting is hard. Summer is SO hard. I’ve given it my absolute best effort, but I’m done. Just two more weeks. I hope we can all survive it.

Summer Goals to Thrive (and not just survive)

Ready or not, summer is here! My kids have one hour left until the bell rings and life changes drastically for the next three months. I know it rolls around every single June, but I’m still terrified. And I don’t want to be. I want to be the kind of mom that’s excited and looking forward to spending 24/7 with her kids. I’d like to be the kind of mom that loves chaos and unstructured days and endless hours at the pool. Unfortunately, I AM the mom that literally wants to go hide in a closet and cry because I’M NOT READY. I’ll never be ready. I know I’m about to enter into three solid months of power struggles, arguments, food battles, and NONSTOP negotiations over screen time. No genuine alone time to recharge my soul, no freedom to have my days play out the way I want them to, no reliable afternoon nap that I so highly depend on for my sanity the other nine months of the year.

Summer has a lot of redeeming qualities. But in these last few days of school, it’s really hard for me to see them. I thought that making a list of easily obtainable goals might give me a little more hope that these next months can be FUN. Days to enjoy instead of days to dread. In some ways, my expectations for this summer are pretty low because my ankle is still healing and I don’t have the energy or stamina to do a lot of the things I’d normally like to do in summer. But that’s giving me the freedom to accept a slower summer, a quieter summer, a summer that’s a lot more driven by what my kids actually want and not by what I think they need to make it memorable. At the same time, those day trips and outings are what usually make the summer more enjoyable for ME. I like to get out of the house and enjoy time with my kids that I can never seem to find when we’re at home all day. At home, I’m like a drill master. By necessity. If we leave the house, we’re suddenly connecting because I’m focusing on them and not the eight zillion things on my to do list and the four million messes strewn in every room of the house. So somehow I need to find a balance between all of it this summer so all four of us can enjoy the passing days.

Easily achievable goals that will make me feel a whole lot better going into the summer and can hopefully be done in the next week!

  • Clean out my car.
  • Declutter all random piles in general living spaces.
  • Clean out the fridge and freezer.

General parenting goals to survive the day to day

  • Keep a large visual weekly calendar complete with any non-negotiable errands, day trips, or appointments. 
  • Enforce said calendar so they know that there’s no wiggle room to argue and complain if something was already planned for the day. 
  • STAY STRONG in parenting, not letting them take advantage of me in my weak moments (and not letting them knowingly make me weak with their incessant whining). Remember that I’m the MOM and if they’re mad at me, I will survive it. Having a child mad at me for enforcing perfectly reasonable parenting rules should not affect my mental energy the way it would if Greg or a friend or other adult family member felt that way about me!

Fun goals for family connection

  • Go on a two night family vacation. Make it happen.
  • Visit at least 5 new dog parks in the Madison area with Annie. 
  • After summer school is over, plan and go on at least one day trip or special outing a week. 
  • Take each child on an individual date night at least once per month. Try harder to have one on one time at home in between the date nights. 

Personal achievement goals

  • Prioritize self care. Know what you need to keep your sanity and DO IT. No excuses. 
  • Make at least 10 dolls per month. Work is not and should not be my highest priority over the summer months. But I know I need it to keep myself and my customers happy, so I need to at least do the bare minimum. 
  • Read. A lot. All the time. It’s worth it, it’s not being lazy. It’s important. And fun!
  • Write more than just my weekend blog posts. I love to write and this is a good time to do it more often! 

Health related goals

  • Be able to walk regularly by September. Hopefully with daily practice I can do that. I’ll start with trying to walk to and from summer school with the boys every day in June. Work up to dog parks and day trips. And hopefully be a lot stronger by fall. 
  • Keep healthy food stocked, prepped, and ready to eat. 
  • Keep meal planning simple, but in existence. Always have easy meals ready to make and on hand, so we don’t resort to eating junk food all day, every day. 
  • Stay cool, calm, and positive. I CAN DO THIS.

And that’s it! Summer is here! We can do this!

Midweek Musings: I hate being the bad guy.

I hate when my schedule is thrown off by something unexpected. I don’t usually deal with it well. I’m very protective of my time – especially in the daytime hours. I’m driven by my to do lists and a basic agenda I set for myself the day before. I like to plan everything. And I try my hardest to stick with it. Especially on days like today, knowing it’s my last home alone day until Tuesday, thanks to an early release Friday, a busy weekend, and no school Monday. I value these hours in a quiet house alone so much. They fill me up and help me get through the busier, crazier, surrounded by people days.

So what messes with my plans more than anything? A kid home sick. Caden woke us up in the middle of the night because his stomach hurt. In the morning he said that it still hurt. But he did not have a fever, he never threw up, he didn’t have diarrhea, he was interacting on a pretty normal morning level, and he ate a big bowl of crackers. While I did believe that he didn’t feel great, I also thought he was fine to go to school. He has a very strong track record of feeling sick in the morning so I let him stay home, and an hour later he magically feels fine. And I ALWAYS regret letting him stay because he thinks he’s gotten away with something and I get upset that it’s messed up my day for no valid reason. If he were truly sick? Then that’s fine. Obviously he should be home if he’s actually throwing up or whatever. But with him – he almost never, ever genuinely gets sick.

Anyway, I told him that he had to go to school and he ran up to his room, covered himself with blankets, and just laid there crying, refusing to get dressed. So I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. We have a tenuous relationship sometimes, and I don’t want to be the person he’s supposed to trust the most – actually being the person who never believes him. Plus, I didn’t really know how to force a strong and defiant nine year old to get dressed and get all the way to school. So he stayed home.

And guess what? By the time I got back from walking Shepard to school, Caden appeared fine. Totally fine. I couldn’t help being angry. But I also tried to reign it in. I figure everybody needs a mental health day every once in awhile. I know I certainly do. I told him he couldn’t watch tv or play video games. I was hoping that a total day of boredom might make him listen to me next time I think he’s good enough to go to school.

The first few hours were fine. He was reading in his room and I was working. Then he came down and watched me edit all my doll photos and list everything, asking me tons of questions. It was sweet that he was showing an interest in what I do. But then he got bored. And angry. He wanted to have candy after he ate his lunch. He wanted to play video games. He wanted to type things on my laptop. And every time I said no he’d run away crying. And with every episode I just felt worse and worse. I hate being the bad guy. And I don’t want to punish him because he felt sick this morning. But also? I’m the parent and I KNEW BETTER. I know how much crappy food he ate yesterday. I knew he wasn’t sick sick.

He wanted to play games once Shepard got home and I’m sticking with my original no. Which believe me, is not going over well. Now I’m the one who wants to run crying to my bed to be buried in blankets. I hate being the bad guy. I hate being the reason my child is upset. I hate feeling conflicted because I never know if I’m doing the right thing or not.

It’s just been a crappy day all around. I was planning to finally take Annie on a really long walk this morning. The only one we’d have this whole week. Didn’t happen. I thought I’d be done with my batch of dolls by ten at the latest, but it was closer to noon. Then I still had to make us lunch, eat, shower. I wanted to write a different blog post this afternoon. And now I’m just venting instead.

I hate being the bad guy.

Four More Weeks

Let’s get real about this summer. For me? It’s been a huge struggle. I feel like I’ve been fighting an internal battle every single day that leaves me oh so exhausted. Not to mention the actual battles I’ve been having with my kids on a daily basis. I’m weary, I’m discouraged, and I feel like no matter where I focus my attention I am in turn monumentally failing at something else. Balance is the impossible goal.

Let me give you a few examples of how about a thousand conversations a day go with my kids.

Caden: Can I play video games?
Me: Not right this minute.
(a minute later)
Caden: It’s a new minute! Can I play video games?

Shepard: Get off me, Caden!
Me: CADEN GET OFF OF SHEPARD RIGHT NOW!
(Caden is above Shepard’s body on the couch, balancing his arms and legs around Shepard’s body, without actually touching him.
Caden: I’m not on him! SEE?! I’m not on him!

(Caden gets squirrely and bored and starts picking on Annie or Shepard.)
Me: Caden, keeps your hands to yourself!
(Starts using his head or legs to constantly touch Annie or Shepard.)
Caden: I’m not touching him/her! See! My hands are to myself!

Shepard: What can I dooooooooo?
Me: Go find something to play with.
Shepard: Video games are something to play with, so I’m playing video games.
Me: No. Find something else.
Shepard: No! You said play with something, so I’m playing video games.

Shepard: I’m so hungrrrrrryyyyyyy. What can I eat?
Me: Yogurt, carrots, peapods, peaches, apples.
Shepard: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I’m HUNGRY!!! What can I EAT?!?!

I am not joking, these types of conversations happen with EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION I have with my kids during the day. All day, every day. They live to look for loopholes in everything I say. I just want to shove my head under a pillow and hide. It’s completely exasperating! And they think it’s hilarious.

For some reason this summer has been so different from last. Maybe the novelty of having a house and neighbors to play with has worn off. There have definitely been a lot less kids around than last year. Last summer the boys spent all day every day outside with friends. This year it’s happened maybe once or twice? Caden’s best friend who lives on the same block as us hasn’t even come over a single time since we got Annie in March. Caden’s gone to his house once. What is going on? And getting them to play outside on their own is nearly impossible. It’s been a very hot summer and I get not really wanting to hang out in the blasting heat. But they can’t seem to find things to do inside on their own either. Like ever. If they’re not outright asking for video games, they are asking me what they can do. Over and over and over and over again. It’s making me INSANE. Stop making me micromanage your life! I have enough going on in my own head. It’s so incredibly tiring.

In the midst of everything, I try to remember that in summer, mothering is my highest priority. Trying to make sure they have some good memories to look back on is important to me. But…working is important to me too. It’s slightly alarming how much business has dropped in the last few months. Summer is when I really love to bring in some extra cash for farmer’s markets, craft fairs, day trips, etc. And it’s just not happening. Maybe because it’s a slow buying season I can validate having a slow making season and just roll with it. But I can’t help worrying and stressing that I’m not doing enough, I’m not making what the people want, and I’m just plain not good enough anymore. I have such high hopes every day that I’ll be able to put in a few hours of real work between everything. But life just gets in the way. Kids and Annie, and when they’re actually leaving me alone the cats start bugging me (always!), they are in my facing and demanding something from me all day long. On the rare days I do put in a solid couple of hours, like this morning, I usually just give in and let my kids watch tv or play video games for hours at a time because I just can’t deal. And then I feel like an awesome and creative maker, but it comes with the price of being a terrible mom. There is no middle ground!

And this is just focusing on my two main priorities for the day. Housework? Laundry? Cooking? Gardening? Exercise? HA! No time for any of that. No energy, no motivation, no incentive.

Anyway. Two months of summer are behind us. June flew by with summer school. July was a whirlwind of traveling and family get togethers. We were busy, certainly, but I also felt out of control. We did fun things and I’m not complaining about it. But my life did not feel like my own because there were just so many places we needed to be and things we needed to do. I like feeling like I have more control over everything. And this summer, control is not in my hands! Even things as simple as grocery shopping. I don’t have control because my kids can’t stand me taking them on errands and do everything in their power to make the trip miserable. I have to set aside the notion of so many little things I’d love to do to make myself happy because I know they’ll throw such a fit about it that it’s just not worth the effort. Even things like listening to podcasts, an audio book, or watching a tv show while I sew. I listen for two minutes then have to stop because someone interrupts me. Five minutes, stop. Thirty seconds, stop. I finally just give up because what’s the point?! Nothing I do during the summer belongs to me. And some days, that’s a hard truth to face.

(Shepard has asked me no less than six times since I started writing this, “What can I DO??”)

So we’re to August now. There are exactly four weeks until school starts. And I want these four weeks to count. I want them to be filled with fun and laughter. I want my kids to realize I made choices about our days with them in mind. I want to loosen up about feeling like I need to work. But I don’t want to give it up either, because it makes me happy. I’ll continue to search for that nonexistent level of balance that I think will finally make me feel like I’m doing enough in every area of my life. It’s probably impossible. But I’m going to try!

New Jersey Vacation, Week of Craziness, and Baby Hudson

WHEW. These last 12 days have been a whirlwind of craziness. We’ve been so busy! It’s been fun, we’ve spent time with a lot of different people, and we’re exhausted. 🙂 I have lots to report on! I decided to combine everything that’s happened into just one blog post, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

Tuesday, June 27th

Tuesday was a day of packing and organizing for me. But it signified the start of vacation because Greg and his dad, Steve, left in a van to drive to New Jersey. They were bringing out a large piece of furniture and decided to make a little road trip out of it. They took all of our luggage, so I had to be fully packed by Tuesday afternoon, even though we weren’t leaving for another 24 hours.

Wednesday, June 28th

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The boys had their last day of summer school. I thought they’d be upset about missing the real last day on Thursday, but I don’t think they cared at all. In the afternoon we got picked up by Cindy (Greg’s mom) and drove to the Milwaukee airport. Traffic was a pain and it was pouring rain, which didn’t help! But we made it with plenty of time to spare.

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We ordered them new, smaller backpacks to be more manageable. The boys waited on the porch for the mail lady and they were delivered at 2:50. We left at 3:00. Close call! They didn’t have any anxiety about flying this time around. Old pros!

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We went on a couple walks around the airport and had Auntie Anne’s pretzels for dinner. On the plane, Shepard and Cindy sat together and Caden sat by me. It was a smooth and uneventful flight! We arrived in New Jersey at about 9:45 and were picked up by Greg and his Uncle Mike.

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We arrived at Uncle Mike and Aunt Zab’s house around midnight. The boys wanted to jump right in the pool! Fortunately, we were able to get them settled into bed pretty quickly because we had an early morning planned.

Thursday, June 29th

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Thursday was Uncle Mike’s 60th birthday. Kind of the reason why we were visiting. Also because we (the three/four of us) haven’t been out there since Caden was eight months old.

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The boys were quick to check out the pool while everyone was getting ready for the day at the beach. Caden halfway “fell in” multiple times.

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We drove to Long Beach Island, where Mike and Zab have friends with a house on the beach. They let us park there, use their bathroom, and use their beach passes. The boys were so excited to run in the ocean. I don’t think they were expecting it to be so cold! It was also super windy that day, so down by the water was pretty chilly in general. I spent the whole time completely covered in towels. Partly because I was cold and partly because I hate the sun.

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I brought my real camera on the trip, but ended up taking a lot more phone photos. I feel so guilty because I have a pretty nice camera. And I only really use it these days to take doll pictures to put up on etsy. Instagram is my joy, though. This picture is so happy! Caden had a blast.

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Shepard was a little more hesitant about actually going in the water, but he had a really good time too.

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Beach people, for a day. Greg and I kind of can’t stand beaches. They’re fun to be at for like half an hour to see the water and take pretty pictures. But the sun, the sand, the inescapable heat – not our cup of tea! But I’m glad the boys, especially Caden, got to start the trip doing something he really wanted to do.

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Recruiting people to help with sandcastles, and then sitting in a chair while they do all the work.

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Sno-cones from the ice cream truck. Caden’s fell in the sand right after the picture.

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We went back to their house sometime in the late afternoon. The boys immediately went in the pool for almost the rest of the day!

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We had a birthday dinner for Mike and cousin Liz brought fancy cupcakes.

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I had half of this concoction, which was delish. And that was it for our first very full day in New Jersey!

Friday, June 30th

Friday was our scheduled day for New York. Originally we were going to take the boys around to some of the bigger sites in NYC, but I strongly argued that Caden probably wouldn’t be very cooperative. Just like in San Francisco last fall when we tried to bring him to all kinds of cool places, all he wanted to do was sit in the hotel. I’m not sure what it is, but if he doesn’t want to go somewhere or do something he’s going to try his hardest to ruin it for everyone. I really hope this is something he grows out of, or we’re just never going to be able to take him on vacation with us. Anyway, we compromised the plans with a ferry ride from New Jersey to the Statue of Liberty. Before the trip, it’s something both boys were very excited about seeing.

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At the New Jersey September 11th Memorial.

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On the ferry. It was hot out!

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Ellis Island. I went here on a high school trip to NYC. It was pretty cool!

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Lovely family picture. 😛

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After extensive security measures, we made it into the statue. We only had pedastal tickets because the crown tickets have been sold out for months in advance. Plus Shepard would have been too short to go to the top anyway. Caden’s foot was hurting, so we took the elevator up. He was feeling pretty emotional at this point. I chalked it up to being very, very tired. I let it fly for this particular outing. It really sucked how much he tried to ruin the rest of the trip, though.

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Finally found everyone else. Even with Steve holding onto Shepard, this picture terrifies me. Shepard is SO CLUMSY.

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In the museum area, trying to stay cool a few minutes longer.

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On the ferry back to NJ. I just have to say that I’m super impressed with how well Shepard did on the trip, despite a lot of missed sleep too. He was so cheerful and up for everything!

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Back at the house. Caden was happy again because he could swim.

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Shepard was in love with their dog, Piper. I’m not sure Piper quite reciprocated the feelings at first, but by the last day she was following him around.

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We spent the afternoon just relaxing. I read a ton and drank the mojito Liz made me.

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And finished the night with another birthday celebration!

Saturday, July 1st

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I gave the boys each a trip journal. Caden seemed to enjoy writing in one in San Francisco, so I thought they might like it. Shepard only wrote the first two days, but I loved what he had to say. So adorable!!

Saturday was supposed to be our down day. Just swimming and hanging out at home. I did a lot more reading while everyone was swimming. It was nice and relaxing.

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In the afternoon, Mike arranged for us to go to Keansburg Amusement Park with Zab’s sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. We (not me!) did the bumper cars first and were the only cars on the track!

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The adults (again, not me!) kept dishing out money for the kids to play all the carnival games. Caden got super angry that his second prize wasn’t big enough so that was it for him. Ruined the rest of the day for himself and Greg. But the other kids had a blast! I love Shepard’s rainbow donkey.

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We got Dip’n Dots to cool off. It was SO HUMID there. Right after we got the ice cream there was a total downpour. Fortunately we were standing right next to the arcade, so we had a place to stay dry.

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For dinner that night we went to a place called Jakeabob’s. (Greg and Caden stayed home since someone’s attitude had not yet improved.) The restaurant was outside on a pier over the ocean. The food was delicious! I had Tinga Tacos that were so spicy and perfect. We managed to finish our food and get out of there just seconds before another downpour.

Sunday, July 2nd

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Another lazy morning as everyone got ready for a 4th of July party.

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The party started around noon. I spent most of the day inside because I started getting a heat rash on my arms on Saturday and every time the sun touched my skin it would flare up again. So I’m sure I looked super anti-social since everyone was outside, but I just couldn’t deal with another day in the sun. Summer is NOT my season.

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But, the party was lovely! Just a couple extra families, lots of pool time, delicious food. Caden was having the time of his life entertaining and playing with people in the pool. For a kid who seems to have so many introverted tendencies, he sure comes across as an extrovert if a pool party is involved!

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In the evening, Uncle Mike brought out tons of sparklers for the kids and a couple of big fireworks.

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It was a very nice final full day to our trip!

Monday, July 3rd

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Our last day! Greg and Steve left with the van around 8am. They were driving to Pittsburgh where Greg had plans to stay with his good internet friend for two nights. Steve continued back on his own, staying at a hotel, and picking up Sarah on the way back, who was in Chicago visiting Melissa. We definitely had some complicated traveling plans between all of us these last two weeks, but it somehow all worked out flawlessly.

We spent our last morning just swimming and relaxing. The boys were pretty sad to leave Piper. It was a good incentive knowing they’d get to see Annie, Jack, and Rory that night, though!

Anyway, our stay in New Jersey was really nice! Mike and Zab were such good hosts. We had so much space too, which was awesome. The boys loved playing video games with cousin Adam and going on walks with Liz and Piper. We’ll definitely have to visit again someday.

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Back on the airplane, going home. This flight felt like forever to me. But, uneventful. We made it back to Wisconsin, to Cindy’s car, and on our way back home.

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About fifteen minutes into the drive Shepard finally stopped talking and I looked behind me and he was bent over with his head in his hands. NEVER a good sign with him. He gets migraines that come on in a split second and if you don’t get him medicine and in bed immediately, he WILL throw up. Which is very, very unfortunate if we’re not at home! I was ripping through Caden’s backpack trying to get the bag at the bottom that was carrying his wet swimsuit. But I wasn’t fast enough. Shepard had already thrown up everywhere. EVERYWHERE. We drove until we could stop and spent quite awhile cleaning him and the car up enough to get back home. It was a pretty crappy end to the trip.

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Finally, we were home! My mom came over earlier with the cats and went to pick up Annie so she’d be at home waiting for us. Which considering Shepard’s explosion, I’m super glad we had arranged ahead of time! It was awesome to get back home to her! I’m not really sure how I feel about the place we boarded her. Their website said that they’d send photos and updates, but they never did. On Thursday night I emailed to ask how she was doing. They said great and that she had fun playing with all her new friends. I figured since I asked once they’d send me more updates, but never heard a word. I assume she had a good time because she loves playing with other dogs more than anything in the world. But the lack of promised updates was very disappointing. Anyway, she’s been unusually tired this week too, so I think she really had a great time while we were away!

Tuesday, July 4th

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I was able to reserve a spot the night before for the parade. I thought it would be too late, but we got the same spot as last year. Right around noon we wandered down there and I got some cheese fries from the fire station fundraiser.

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We watched the parade for about 15 minutes, but were all just SO hot and SO tired. Shepard started bawling the first time another kid beat him to a piece of candy and I just didn’t want to be there for two more hours. So we went back home and had some quiet time instead. Much needed!

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In the afternoon we went over to my mom’s house to spend some time with my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Toni who were visiting from Arizona. We had a delicious meal and hung out in the yard with the dogs. Unfortunately, when we weren’t looking, Annie managed to get over my mom’s fence. Now that she knows she can do that, it might make visiting with her a lot more stressful. 🙁

After a few hours we swung by Noe’s to pick up all our luggage, that Steve had brought back in the van. Then back home again to do more laundry and more resting. I wanted to go to bed early SO badly. But the boys were so well behaved all day, they really wanted to see the fireworks, so we powered through.

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At 9:00 we left to walk to Fireman’s Park. Last year we only walked about halfway and could only see about half the fireworks over the trees. So this year we wanted to get the full experience. I was expecting it to be jam packed because of the carnival and band, but there was plenty of space to sit.

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We ended up having perfect timing! I’m really glad we stayed up for it. The boys cuddled on up on my lap and we enjoyed the show. The walk home was very long and exhausting, but overall, a really good holiday!

Wednesday, July 5th

Late Wednesday morning, I brought the boys over to my mom’s house and headed to Milwaukee to pick Greg up from the airport. Then we went to my cousin Jenny’s house where there was another family gathering with the aunt and uncle from AZ.

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The boys had such a great time playing with their (second?) cousins. Even though we all live relatively close to each other, we never seem to have time to get together anymore. It was fun to catch up with everyone.

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I was pretty dead tired at this point. We headed back home and planned to go right to bed. BUT, we got word that Timmy and Brittany were in the hospital. The baby was coming! When it seemed like things were progressing, I wasn’t able to fall asleep I was so excited. So…I didn’t really sleep that night.

Thursday, July 6th

BABY HUDSON IS BORN!

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My very first nephew was born at 2:03am on Timmy and Brittany’s 5th wedding anniversary. Hudson Taylor Braatz was 6 lbs, 1 oz and 18.5 inches long. It sounds like everything went pretty smoothly. I was so excited!! I’m an aunt! The boys have their first first cousin! We have a baby in the family again! Super exciting. 🙂 🙂 🙂

So Thursday morning we spent working in the garden a bit and pulling out all our failed radishes. Then we had to go to Caden’s therapy session. And then we headed to Milwaukee to meet Hudson!

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I got lots of time to hold him first while Greg, Timmy, and the boys went to get some Ian’s Pizza for dinner. He was SO tiny!!

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Caden loves babies and toddlers so much. He’s going to have a lot of fun with Hudson in the coming years!

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Shepard was not ready to hold him yet. But he was very curious!

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Super congrats to the new family of three! I hope we can go visit him again in the next week or two. Such a cutie!

Friday, July 7th

We all had a much needed fairly quiet day at home. Greg was working, but at home.

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The boys had their first bath in forever. They showered a few times in New Jersey, but really needed a soak!

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On Friday afternoon we went over to Noe’s. Sarah was still visiting and we gave her her birthday presents a little early. Then we headed out to Oshkosh for a visit/dinner with Steve’s side of the family.

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More cousin time! Even though they’ve just gotten their first real cousin this week, I’m so thankful we have all these other branches of our own cousins’ kids for the boys to play with. It seems like especially in the last year or two, they’re really enjoying the benefits of cousin time whenever it can happen.

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We’re so tired.

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Caden reading Trevor a book to stop all the wrestling and running. That lasted about ten seconds.

Anyway, we had pizza and dessert, stayed a few hours to hang out. It was fun! I look forward to our next gathering when I’m not about to pass out from exhaustion.

Saturday, July 8th

Almost done, almost done. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much social interaction in such a short period of time. It was fun, truly. But…it was a lot. By Saturday I was SO ready to just be done and have life go back to normal. But we had one more big event – a wedding for a Noe family friend that they grew up with.

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Back to Milwaukee for the fourth time this week! My mom came over to watch the boys and Annie because it was a no kid wedding. Which kind of irritated me at first, but it ended up working out really well. Greg and I really needed a day away from them! And they really needed a low key day of just being at home.

The ceremony was short and sweet. And then with a big gap before the cocktail hour and dinner, on a whim Greg suggested we book it across Menomonee Falls to make a showing of Baby Driver. We NEVER do spontaneous things. But it was perfect! It was exactly what we needed. Chill out time together. No talking necessary. It made me so happy that we did something fun FOR OURSELVES after basically two full weeks of focusing all our attention outward. I’m glad we went. 🙂

The reception was a bit crazy. The wedding couple had so many friends!! 250 people crammed into a room where almost nobody could move! The dinner lasted 2.5 hours. It was a lot. Lovely wedding and I’m glad we could be there to celebrate with them. But by the time the dancing started, we were ready to head out!

Sunday, July 9th

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And finally, the last of our daily commitments! I met my parents in the morning and we went to the annual Swan Park Craft Fair. Usually a huge craft fair, it really seemed to be lacking this year. Kind of disappointing, but still fun. I bought three dip mixes, sour cherry balls for Greg, and a pair of vintagey crystal earrings. Afterward we had our annual lunch tradition at Cousins. And a trip to Twisted Sister. Then my parents left to go visit Hudson and I went to Sun Prairie to do all my grocery shopping while I could do it alone. Then I went home and crashed!

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While I was gone, Greg was working on odds and ends. He got some chicken wire to wrap around the fence I put up originally. I was trying to keep the bunnies out because last year they ate all our peppers. But apparently the bunnies here are very skinny because they could jump right through the holes. Hopefully it’s well protected now. I want those peppers!

Looking Ahead

And that’s it! Our two weeks of insanity are over! They were really a lot of fun, but I am so tired now. I want normal back. It makes me so sad that summer is basically half over and I feel like it hasn’t even truly begun yet. Those lazy days of chilling at home, playing with friends, going to the pool – they haven’t even started yet. We have a lot of things to fit into these next eight weeks before school begins again.

This week, though, is about recovering. Getting the house in order, resting, making dinner for the first time in two weeks! I’m also hoping to get back to work in the next day or two. Hopefully some pool days. Maybe going to see the new Spiderman movie. And catching up with some friends. I’m excited about having a boring life again. I can only handle so much excitement! 🙂

Catching Up and Belated Father’s Day

Whew, it has been a busy couple of weeks! So much busier than I expected them to be. Life is definitely full. I’ve barely had time to even sit down at my computer, much less write out a blog post. But I miss it! So I thought I’d try and recap everything that’s happened since my last post.

Summer School

Summer school is in full swing. The boys go there from 8:30-1:00 every day. They took the same sports class and dance class. They both also have an engineering class, but different levels. And Caden is in coding – his favorite class and Shepard has art – his favorite. They find each other at lunch so they can always eat together. It’s kind of adorable. Even though they fight so much at home, they really do have such a close relationship. I hope it’s always that way. Overall, summer school has been going pretty well. We had one pretty tough day last week when Shepard claimed he was sick, so I let him come home and he clearly was fine. Trying to get him back to school was a nightmare. Deja vu of last summer when every single day of class was about the worst day of my life. Though worse this year because he knows better! I’m not sure what that was all about last Tuesday, but he’s been fine again ever since.

Walking

Every year since Caden first started speech therapy summer school when he was three, I’ve used that time to go on long walks. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer. This year has been no different, except that I have a dog accompanying me. Last week was really hot, so it was hard to walk for too long, but we still got a bit of time in. This week with the temperatures much cooler, Annie and I have been going for two, three, four mile walks every morning. It’s definitely more of a challenge with her in tow, but I love to have the companionship. It’s one of the reasons I really wanted a dog and I’m glad I’m sticking with it and making this happen. Plus it’s just really good exercise! For the last week and a half I re-devoted myself to reaching a step goal every day. I’ve also started counting calories. Which some days has really sucked. But overall I’ve been feeling better and have a lot more energy. So I’m going to try and stick with it.

Therapy

Last week Greg and I met with a child psychologist to talk about our struggles with Caden. Or…Caden’s struggles with us. It was more of an introductory session and we’re going back today with him. I liked this psychologist much better than the one we tried a few years ago. I hope it goes well. For all of our sakes. But I think Caden could really use the help and I’m hoping he’s old enough now to understand why he’s there.

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Wonder Woman

Last Friday we went to see Wonder Woman. We went as a whole family because Greg really wanted to see it and it’s just so much easier to not find a babysitter! It’s kind of exciting that the boys are getting older and we can do more things like this, though.

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The boys spent the whole moving basically crawling all over Greg trying to find the best cuddling positions. It was a little long and slow for Shepard’s attention span. And he kept asking questions at normal volume. But as Greg pointed out, he bought tickets first and the only other people there picked seats right next to us, so it was their own fault they had to listen to Shepard’s talking during the movie! 🙂

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Early Father’s Day

We had sort of an early Father’s Day celebration with Greg’s family on Saturday night. His sister Melissa and her boyfriend Andrew were in town, so we wanted to spend some time with them. We had a nice dinner, gave Grandpa his presents, and played Codenames. After another outrageously hard day with Caden, it was a nice way to end the night. Look at that smile above. There’s definitely a happy kid inside of him. I just wish it came out more often.

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Father’s Day

Sunday was Father’s Day. Greg decided to have a relatively low key day at home. We let him sleep in as late as he wanted, made him his favorite cherry coffee cake for breakfast, and gave him his presents.

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Such happy smiles. 🙂

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Oh how I wish Shepard could stay so small and adorable forever. All his smiles and giggles make me so happy.

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They are always so highly amused by the cards that they make.

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Very funny. 🙂 We gave Greg a video game he’s been wanting, two pairs of shorts, a Guardians of the Galaxy Mad Libs, and a book about the 1700 best pizza restaurants in the world.

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So the plan for most of Father’s Day was to have my family over for a party. But my mom got sick, so neither of my parents came. And since they didn’t come one of my brothers didn’t have a way to get here. So it ended up just being my other brother and sister-in-law. It did kind of feel like a lot of work for just having two extra people here for our “party.” But all that work was already put in on Saturday, so the party was on! I made Greg jalapeno popper dip and my dad a hot Maui onion and bacon dip.

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Can’t have a party without punch!

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Pulled pork and bbq chicken sandwiches.

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And a “cake” with a brownie base and then peanut butter mousse, chocolate mousse, and chocolate whipped cream frosting. It was definitely a labor intensive dessert and I was just happy the mousse layers stabilized and didn’t fall apart!

It was a pretty relaxed little party. The weather was incredible. We had every single window in the house open because there was such a wonderful breeze. It felt like my perfect kind of early summer day. Everyone spent some time outside, the boys showed Uncle Timmy the video games they’ve been working on, we talked about the quickly approaching baby’s birth (!!!). It was a nice day! Kind of disappointing it didn’t go as planned, but what can you do? After Timmy and Brittany left I was pretty beat and still had cleanup to do. So Greg took the boys to drop some food off for my dad and then spend a little more time with his parents.

As a side note to this recap blog post, I just want to say that I am so, so thankful for Greg as a father to our boys. He’s the best dad I could have ever imagined he’d be. He’s so selfless and giving and always, always there for them. They will never doubt his love for them and he will probably always be their biggest supporter. I’m not good at saying it out loud, but I think it all the time. We are SO blessed to have him in our lives.

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Work

Ah, work. This has been a real struggle, you guys. Will working at home ever not be a struggle? I do have to say that this week I was determined to make sewing my main focus. And I’ve done well. It’s hard to make that my daily lifestyle, though. There’s always so much else going on. Especially in summer. But this week, the last three days, I finally buckled down and made these cute little mohair animals. They almost never sell because they’re too expensive, but I like making them. They’re entirely hand sewn and it just feels so awesome to start with so few supplies and just my hand and end up with an adorable little teddy bear or monkey! Yesterday I started on a big batch of dolls since that’s what my customers actually want. I’m hoping I can get them done by the weekend, but that’s probably very ambitious thinking.

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Obedience Class

I can’t believe we haven’t even had Annie for three months yet. She’s basically half of my life. So much of my day is centered around what she needs to be a happy and well cared for dog. For the most part, things are going really well. But we’re definitely still struggling with her over-excitement, jumping on every single person she sees, and pulling so hard on our walks. I heard about a free obedience class last night, so I signed us up to check it out. When we arrived, there wasn’t another dog in sight. I was frustrated to think that it must have been cancelled and nobody let me know, so we went on a little lakeside adventure. Annie kept diving in the water trying to go after ducks. She’d walk as far she could with just her head above water and then turn around, run back, and do it all over again. So even though dogs supposedly all know how to swim, Annie definitely doesn’t know she knows how to swim!

Anyway, I got a call back that the class was only moved back an hour and I wasn’t on their list, even though I did sign up. So we went back to the other park and tried out our first class. It was challenging. And stressful because Annie just wants to play with other dogs SO MUCH. But it was also very helpful. I learned a few tricks to try with our problem areas. And I also think I’m going to sign up for their next eight week session of classes. It feels like a worthy investment. I want to have better control over her. And I want people to stop giving me unsolicited advice on the streets about what I’m doing wrong. 😛

Moving Ahead

Well, I think that’s about it for the last week and a half! It’s been busy. As a bit of a Sunday Intention vibe to end this post… For the next few days I’m still focusing on work. But I’m also hoping for a little down time. I’ve had very little of that lately. I need to remember my goal of doing lots of reading this summer! It might be a good afternoon for a book!